In October 2017, I did a presentation on the harms of Cultural Appropriation with Studio H at New Media Publishing. I met Taste magazine’s features editor Michelle Coburn who asked to have a quick chat with me after my talk. She mentioned their food editor had made her way to Cyrildene (Johannesburg’s Old Chinatown), with the upcoming Lunar New Year in mind, and photographs were taken for a story for Taste.
Since my presentation ended off with a point on representation and the methods to prevent cultural appropriation through inclusive and diverse content, Michelle took the opportunity to discuss this further with me. We spoke about cultural stories and the need for them to be told by those who belong to those cultures, in essence people of colour (POC). I could tell Michelle and I were going to get along well, she respected my voice and I appreciated her active approach.
On a similar note, this isn’t just a conversation for just food media but for ALL categories of local media. Recently, the South African blogging community openly raised the importance of diverse representation, as bloggers weren’t being given fair opportunities by many brands and PR agencies that often fall back on what’s familiar rather than what’s diverse, inclusive and a real representation of our local demographics. Shante Hutton wrote a post on the lack of POC representation with local brands when they collaborate with individuals (shared on her blog Rose and Thorns). POC bloggers commented on Hutton’s posts with gratitude for sharing their truth – as poc are too often considered problematic and unnecessary when they (we) speak our truth. Our country is made up of 80.2% black African, 8.8% coloured, 2.5% Indian/Asian and 8.4% white, which means 91.5% of our population is POC. But what we see represented in South African media doesn’t reflect our overwhelming majority (stats are pulled from here) and brands should realise the power of tapping into new and diverse audiences.
Michelle understood the importance of representation in media, I could tell the way her head was nodding along throughout my entire presentation, and after meeting me asked me to please consider writing the Lunar New Year piece for them. Of course, 1. having celebrated this holiday every year of my life and 2. being a food lover and writer trying to make it in a country where I am an immigrant and a minority… I was more than happy to write this for Taste, a multi-award-winning magazine.
My dear friend Ishay Govender-Ypma shared this before I managed to get my hands on a copy:
And you know what, she’s right. I haven’t seen food culture stories written by local East Asians before my own writing but I hope to see more East Asians, immigrants and POC writing about our own cultures. P.S. Look at my beautiful mama, I’m so happy to make her proud. If you get a copy, please let me know what you think on Twitter or Facebook.